Great murder mystery/romance. A novel of baroque suspense set against the splendor of Venice in 1891, during Festival Season, just as the Panama Canal scandal is breaking. The 90-year-old recluse Giles Demaury, patriarch of the great international art-dealing and auctioneering Demaury family, summons his clan from around the world to gather at his palazzo. He intends to choose an heir to the family fortune, and he makes it quite clear that everyone--including multimillionaire Bertrand Demaury, from Boston, with wife and family; elegant, calculating Philippe and his countess, from Paris; the disarming young German Otto von Wuppertal, whose father has recently killed himself because of financial reverses--will be on trial before his decision is made. One by one, they are summoned before him while he probes their ambitions with knifelike precision as suspicion and hatred thicken among them. Meg, an impoverished cousin of the Demaurys who lives by their grace and favor as companion to the spoiled Esmeralda Demaury, arrives from England. Ignored by the family, she is captive to the romantic overtures of Lord Peter Chalmers, fiance os Esmeralda. During the first formal gathering of the clan, one of the assembled dinner guests dies of poisoning after drinking from Borgia Cup, a family heirloom. The first murder has occurred. There will be others. Prince Lorenzo Giolitti-Crispi, the titled and hondsome but penniless chief of police, arrives on the scene and interviews Meg as the prime suspect in his inquiry. Her initial awe of him gradually develops into a secret love--quite the reverse of the legendary and passionate romance that had existed between Giles and Estelle Amor, the most charismatic actress of her era.
Anne-Marie Sheridan is the author and has written several good romances. Haven't read this one is 20 years, but would not have kept it if not a good read.